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Night Perils of Night Driving
By Slyva Mularchyk

Few people really enjoy night driving - those who do are blessed with excellent night vision. The rest of us would prefer not to drive at night, but there are times when it must be done.

Each of us sees with a different degree of perception, and at night that ability is reduced, along with the ability to distinguish objects and judge distances. Nothing looks the same at night as it does during the daylight hours. At night, shapes, sizes, and colors are distorted, and ordinary objects take on an eerie quality. The old adage that at night all cats are gray is in fact quite true.

Age is a determining factor in night-seeing ability. The older the driver, the more light she requires to see, and the harder it is to adjust to sudden light changes, such as headlamp glare. But resistance to glare varies in all drivers. Depending on speed, some drivers may be driving blind after exposure to headlight glare for as far as 50 to 75 feet, some as far as 100 feet. In these situations, it is best to slow down and try to guide your car using your peripheral vision, keeping your gaze on the right side of the road and alternating it with the center line. Vision adjustment from light to dark may take up to a half-hour, whereas the opposite, adjusting from dark to light, may take only a few seconds. True night vision adaptation is not achieved while driving, since your own headlights and dash lights interfere. Dimming the dash lights will help the your eyes adjust. Too much exposure to sunlight during the day can also impair your ability to see at night, so wearing sunglasses during the day can help your eyes to adapt to the dark later on. It is a good idea to have your sunglasses handy when you drive into a brightly lighted area, such as a service station, toll booth or a recreation area.

Remember, no matter how excellent your vision, you cannot see beyond your headlights, so be sure to maintain a speed that will allow you to stop within that distance. High speed and following other vehicles too closely are the two greatest night-driving hazards.

All the safety rules that you follow during the day should be adhered to even more stringently at night. Though you may be familiar with the street or highway on which you are driving, never assume that the roads will be as easy to navigate as they are during the day. A small dog may be crossing the road, an object may have fallen from another vehicle, the wind may have blown an obstruction onto the street, a truck without rear lights may have stopped dead ahead of you-- all these situations require a sharp eye and quick maneuvering. But most dangerous of all are the other drivers, the ones you are passing. You could encounter a drunk driver, a tired driver just getting off the late shift, or even a good driver who is fumbling with the radio controls. You must drive not only to protect yourself, but also to defend yourself against other drivers.

Evening twilight, the hours between sunset and complete darkness, is the most dangerous time for driving. Be ever watchful during these hours because your headlights do not provide sufficient light, and your eyes have not adjusted to the falling darkness. Light drops quickly and visibility diminishes rapidly, much faster than your eyes can adjust. It is wise to ease up on the accelerator until your confidence is restored. Morning twilight or dawn is less hazardous because the light is steadily increasing.

Aside from all the uncertainties that come with sharing the road with other drivers, your greatest hazard is yourself. Be careful not to succumb to the feeling of security that comes from sitting comfortably behind a wheel, a long ribbon of highway stretched out before you, the motor singing softly, contentment pervading your thoughts and dreams...

Dreams? No, not now! Don't start dreaming while you're on the road! If you find yourself beginning to doze, turn off the highway and splash some cold water on your face before you continue driving. It is better to get there late than never to get there at all. Another old adage to live by.

CLEARER NIGHT DRIVING FOR EYEGLASS WEARERS

Researchers have discovered an anti-reflective coating that practically eliminates the reflective glare from oncoming headlights. It allows more light to pass through your eyeglass lenses, allowing you to see more clearly while driving at night.

This anti-reflective coating can also reduce eye fatigue from computer use and reading, and also makes your lenses less noticeable to others. For a free brochure, ask your eye care professional or write to the AR Council, P.O. Box 71385, Richmond, VA 23255; or visit www.arcouncil.org.

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